USS Fitzgerald collides with ACX Crystal off coast of Japan


Your link earlier says STX Engine.

Link to STX engine

That makes a lot more sense to me.


STX is the builder of the B&W designed engine, model 2 SA 8 CY


No page refuses ink.

In the present era you can add “no display refuses a pixel.”

Words, written or spoken, along with those little 0’s & 1’s can inform, misinform, or anywhere in between. Sometimes incidentally or accidentally, and sometimes on purpose.

Caveat emptor, always.


We produce a lot of 0 and 1 in this Forum. Hopefully truths and facts only, at least most of the time.


Hence the old adage: If it’s gray, stay away.

More than a bit of truth to that, although I wouldn’t want to overstate it. Besides, the merchant fleets have plenty of inattentiveness and incompetence to go around.


USS Porter Collision Bridge Audio. USS Fitzgerald’s collision reminds us how lucky the Porter Sailors were have not suffered casualties. There are only a few frames between where Porter’s Collision and Fitzgerald’s Collisions struck.


Reducing speed on a low-speed diesel in some cases may require the engine room be manned when on HFO. For example putting the boiler on line, taking the evaporator off-line etc.

Sometimes round turns are used for traffic avoidance, the COLREGs discussion here has mostly focused on a two ship situation but the traffic in that area can be heavy. Sometimes two or three ships abreast 1/2 mile off at different speeds.


Yes exactly my point. She was probably running on HFO with the ECR unmanned and it would take some time to slow the engine. In fact the 2nd Mate may not have been allowed to do so on his own.

My other point was that if they needed to slow down to reach the Pilot Station at a given time, it would have been possible to do so without switching to MGO. (But MAY have required personnel in the ECR)

All this talk about the Crystal behaving erratic by changing course and speed prior to the collision is not realistic.I think it all comes from the confusion of time zones, which is born out by the plot of the track of Crystal, as shown. The collision happened at 1630 UTC (0130 hrs. L/T) as stated by the Japanese Cost Guard. (Japan time zone: UTC +9) Maybe the Fritz was still on a different time zone??

Your point that there may have been many other ships, maybe even fishing boat, in the area is very valid. Lots of squid jiggers with blazing lights, or trawlers on all kinds of crossing courses, may get anybody excited and confused.


I’ve been seeing the same discrepancy in news reports. Which party has the time of UTC incorrect? I’ve got at least 5 clocks on my bridge reading Greenwich time. The abrupt 90 degree turn to starboard at 1630 UTC seems to back that up from where I’m standing.


Japanese newspaper has interesting take on all this. Story regarding lookouts here. and it shows what Japan Coast Guard believes happened.


Yes it does appear that the Japanese Coast Guard is in agreement with the logical conclusion that the collision happened at abt. 0130 hrs. L/T (1630 UTC) and that the sharp turn to Stbd. was as a consequence of that: [quote]The JCG strongly believes that the two ships collided around the time the container ship made an abrupt change of course at around 1:30 a.m. The JCG intends to continue its investigation.[/quote]

Where the Fritz originated from and where it was heading is of course a military secret, but can we assume that early reports that it was returning to Yokosuka Base is correct? (Presumably from duty with the aircraft carrier group Ronald Reagan off the Korean Peninsula/ in the Sea of Japan)

It is thus very likely that the two vessels were heading in the same general direction, unless the warship was still doing some “fancy stuff” while heading home. (If so, wouldn’t the CO be on the bridge??)

That they don’t broadcast their position, heading and speed on AIS is understandable, but could they also be running dark to keep their existence “secret” from other shipping?? Sounds silly when on a transport leg and in a densely trafficked shipping lane, but you never know with “them grey ships”.

It is over 50 years since I served my National Service in the Norwegian Navy, but I remember it as being; “big boys playing games with expensive toys”. (Mind you, I was on MTBs, not big ships)

Maybe somebody with more knowledge of how things are done in the US Navy could chip in??


As per today’s Washington Post “The collision appears to have happened at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning, not 2:30 a.m. as the Seventh Fleet reported. That was the time that the Fitzgerald alerted the Seventh Fleet of the collision, a spokesman said.”


I think that both vessels were headed easterly, with the Crystal doing about 18kt and the Fitzgerald loitering slower due to scheduled arrival time in port.

Crystal came left to avoid To-Shima and head towards port. Within a few minutes Crystal closed from the starboard quarter and struck Fitzgerald. The abrupt starboard movement of Crystal at 0130 was the collision.

Crystal then resumed her ENE track until deciding that she needed to turn around and return to the site of the collision. As previously posted this delay may have been due to Iron Mike, or inattentive watch, or engineering considerations. Crystal loitered at the collision site for a bit until resuming her track to enter port.

All the investigations should serve to show us what happened, and assign blame/responsibility accordingly.

As a retired U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer, with thousands of hours on the bridge of a few large Navy vessels and lots of frigates and destroyers, I will also question how a bridge team, backed up by a CIC watch team, can allow this to happen - even in a busy shipping area with multiple vessels complicating the RoR picture. Someone lost the bubble.

Prayers for those who perished, and peace for their families.

Commander, USN (Ret)
Master, Oceans, Steam, Motor or Sail - 1600 Tons
Chief Mate, Oceans, Unlimited


[quote=“ombugge, post:71, topic:45129, full:true”]…but can we assume that early reports that it was returning to Yokosuka Base is correct?

No, we cannot.

The Japan News wrote:
“Meanwhile, detailed positions of the destroyer are not known. It is thought it left the Yokosuka base on Friday and traveled southward.”


Yes I have read that one. At least that clears up the confusion about time of the collision, which have caused so much speculation in the media about the Crystal doing “suspicious” turns BEFORE the impact.

It is a bit surprising that, even if the Fritz took an hour to report the incident, that they did not tell their shore base the time when it happened.

I also notice that the Japanese investigators have visited the Crystal, but still not been allowed to interview the OOD and bridge crew on the Fritz. Likewise, the USN investigator have not been able to go onboard the Crystal apparently.

Thanks for your info and insight into the ways of the USN.
Some questions though.
Re: loitering. Would the Fritz be likely to just slow down to time their ETA, or would they use the time to do something else, like zig-zagging, making turns or running dark, or anything else?

Is it likely that the track and actions of the Fritz will be released to the public at some time, or at least to the Japanese investigators?

I read that too, hence my question, since it has been reported from several sources that she was.
I tend to believe that JT may be wrong on that one.


I don’t know what the operational tasking for the Fitz might have been, and not sure if she was headed back in or not. I have been on many ships where we adjusted speed to get to the designated pilot station on schedule. I have never zig-zagged to do so, and certainly not in a busy shipping area. Might turn around and do a big loop if necessary.

While several have posted about “running dark”, I can count on my fingers the nights when we have done that, and it has always been during a structured naval exercise, e.g. trying to run a simulated blockade, etc. Never in a busy traffic scheme area. The navigation lights on Navy ships are much easier to see and evaluate, as the rest of the ship is darkened and the lights are never obscured by cargo.

I would expect all the details of the Fitz’s movements to be released to the various investigators, JCG, USCG, and USN JagMan Investigation. Those movements and actions will eventually be made public, as will any disciplinary action taken by the Navy.



Often times, at least where I operate, warships will put out securite calls if their lights are off or are not in accordance with the ROTR.
They are outfitted with AIS but rarely have I seen them transmit…obviously this is for security reasons.

One may wonder if there was some radio chatter between the two vessels prior to the incident and if there was a language barrier issue contributing to it…


I’ve had this very argument with many times with mates sailing on a drillship with a huge derrick obstructing the rear view mirror and a max speed of 12 knots!

Sure, offsetting the radars a bit makes sense if your moving in a straight line at 25 knots but offsetting it to the very edge of the screen while operating a reduced speed makes zero sense to me.


Absolutely but the difference is the resources available to merchant vs naval officers. Sleep, attentive lookouts, multiple radar systems, training, fast acceleration, speed, maneuverability, system redundancy, fully manned - around the clock -engine rooms… are all at the fingertips of Warships CO. While the average containership captain is lucky if his lookout speaks the same language as him.


The possibility of a language barrier is the least of the problems when hailing a Navy ship on VHF. The other problems are:

  1. How do you hail the navy ship? Without AIS you don’t know the ships name. And navy either doesn’t answer to, or gets testy, when you use those big numbers painted on the bow to hail them. And they also don’t like it when you broadcast their course, speed and location via vhf.

  2. Once you do establish contact a child’s voice answers.

  3. Said child in the CIC has to call another junior sailor on the bridge who has to tell the nco who relays your message to the officer on watch… who sends the message back down the chain.

  4. By the time you receive said reply the situation is (hopefully) over.

  5. If you do get a sensible reply in time to be of you the navy often dictates exactly what they want you to do to avoid them without regard for other vessels you need to avoid.

  6. Said directions are often relayed in relative bearing from then and distances are transmitted in yards.

  7. When things start to get hairy the mate on watch calls the Captain who often proceeds to waste time chastising you for having hailed those “incompetent a$$holes”.

But on a serious note? Does anyone here have any good tips for hailing and communicating with a warship via vhf?